Tag Archives: permission

Blow Me Away

imagesPeanut butter on crackers was the closest I came to meditating today. Sometimes just chewing and daydreaming does the trick. Today’s chewing found me pondering the perils of marketing my workshops.

I’m going to be a little lazy here and lean on generalizations, but having heralded from a British mother and an American father and having lived in both countries, I began to wonder if 50% of my cells are programmed for polite modesty, while the remaining half are bursting with bravado?

And if that really is the case, then how do I convey my authentic message humbly without sounding arrogant or too loud?

And then suddenly a memory popped into my head… something I hadn’t thought about in a long while, but was obviously still loitering in my psyche waiting to pounce.

I was on a job interview for a position in the counselling department of a university in London, just a few months after completing my psychotherapy training. The man who was interviewing me was wearing a waistcoat and jeans. I can picture him now. He looked gentle and approachable, and I was sitting opposite him when he asked,

“So Rory, what are the strengths you will bring to this job?”

I liked the question. It was both direct and relevant, and I begin to list some of what I considered to be my most effective counselling attributes. I had just completed a rigorous training and was finally learning how to ‘own my strengths’ rather than consistently denigrate myself.

And then this happened.

I paused, and the man held up his hand. Like a stop sign.

“Right, well I get the idea, you wouldn’t want to blow your own trumpet now would you?”

I recall feeling stunned by his statement and blanketed in shame. I looked down at my black lace-up boots. They certainly didn’t appear too small for me, in fact I thought they fit very comfortably, but in a short and sharp second this man had reminded me otherwise. His words struck a familiar yet muted chord and it sounded something like this: Don’t get too big for those boots, missy. Don’t be TOO much. Shrink. Blend. Don’t call attention to yourself. Shhhh. Leave it up to others more capable. Sit back.

In therapy we talk about clients being influenced by their unconscious. Looking back, I wonder if that so called ‘enlightened’ male therapist in the waistcoat and jeans, was actually being driven that morning by a wayward force out of his awareness; a rusty paradigm that for years has kept women ‘in their rightful place’.

I am the daughter of a powerful mother who fought in the 1970’s to carve out a successful niche for herself in the then male dominated world of fiction, and remains there forty years later. I come from determined creative stock, and yet on the day that I was told to keep my trumpet quiet, it was the reverberations of my grandmothers’ struggles that I recognized in the quickened pace of my heart.

I felt a sudden kinship with the previous generations of women in my family who had been shaped by a patriarchal society – an environment where women’s strengths were swept under the carpets they were cleaning, and trumpet blowing was definitely out of the question.

So what did I learn from being baited to brag, only to be painfully hooked for my boldness?

I learned that trumpet blowing, tempered with humility, is essential – for women and men alike.

Not the ‘look at me on Instagram!” mode of trumpet blowing. Nor the Facebook friend foraging frenzy. But the kind of trumpet blowing which requires true introspection and self reflection. The kind of trumpet blowing which takes time and patience and commitment, until it becomes lucid and clear. The kind of trumpet blowing which might involve sitting still with ourselves after the peanut butter crackers and hearing our own repetitive tunes, and then finding the courage to write some new notes.

My trumpet sings: I am a really really good listener. I’m very intuitive and I’m excellent at encouraging people. I also have this special knack for helping others unthread tangles. And I’m NOT afraid to say it!

I guess that’s the only ‘marketing campaign’ I need after all. A united front. The British and American parts of me meeting over the ocean on a starry ship’s deck, soaking up a unique jazz blend. My own fusion of truths.

It doesn’t really matter what any of our trumpets sound like. What matters is that we are brave enough to play them, even in the face of those who tell us not to. What matters is that we polish them until they shine, and we make a sturdy case to protect our precious instruments. What matters is that we reveal our treasures, rather than toss them overboard where they will sink, never to be found.

So imagine that I’m interviewing you now and I ask YOU what your strengths are. But before you answer, I pass you a permission slip. The letters are LARGE and colourful. The words release you.

PLAY YOUR TRUMPET AS LOUDLY AS YOU WISH! BLOW ME AWAY

 

Writing Prompt: Ten minutes on your strengths. If you’ve never done this before, reflect on why it feels so hard. Whose voice is holding a finger to your lips quieting you down?  Be tender with yourself. Care for your strengths and be curious as to where they can lead you. Stay aware of your surroundings. Listen to your tune…what’s stuck? Where does your rhythm need to change?

 

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Braking Habits

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I have a vivid memory of sitting in a café with a trusted friend, many moons ago, lamenting my then relationship.

I had quite the shopping list. Why couldn’t my ‘other half’ be different? Why couldn’t all my love and input make things ‘better’ for us?  Couldn’t he see how hard I was working to try and help? This particular friend doesn’t cake decorate her words. She’s direct. Focused. She knows how to intercept tears.

Here’s what she said:

“Picture this – two broken down cars parked on the same street. One of them belongs to you and one of them belongs to him. You have all the tools you need to fix your own car, but for some inexplicable reason you are spending all your time attempting to fix him first, even though your own rent-a-wreck won’t start. You are NOT equipped to fix his car – only he can do that! Newsflash – you ARE qualified to work on your own misfires, and if he sees you revving your engine, polishing your rims, changing your oil – there’s a good chance he’ll be inspired to do the same.”

Okay – so I might have embellished her metaphor slightly, but the wisdom remains. At the time, I felt defeated. Why wasn’t I ‘enough’ to tune him up? Surely he wanted to ‘improve’ in order to make me happier?

Before long, I realized my sage confidante was a pretty astute psychological mechanic, and I embarked on a mission to service my own ailing parts, instead of wasting my precious energy using a rusty unsuitable spanner on his.

In essence, I began to be kinder and more attentive to myself, and as a result, less critical towards him. It seems to me, we are often drawn towards being our own worst enemy, rather than our own dear friend.

With this insight, I felt more effective and less of a victim of my circumstances. Bitterness receded and I became easier to relate to, while he, miraculously, began to find it easier to relate.

Not so miraculous really, it makes a lot of sense.

The most effective method of change is modelling the behaviour you hope to see in others.

A very simple example is one that parents encounter frequently. They yell at their kids in a vain attempt to stop their kids from yelling. It never appears obvious at the time, but if we could watch ourselves on video flailing around in these chaotic moments, the picture would be absurdly clear.

Ghandi might not have been berating a six year old or fuming at his partner when he said

Be the change you want to see in the world…

 but the most poignant mantras can be applied in many circumstances.

So if you’re investing all your efforts into solving someone else’s problems with the intent of  increasing their worth, put the brakes on. While you’re at it, listen for a squeak – a sure indication of where your own work needs to begin…

Did this post resonate with you?

WRITING PROMPT: Take ten minutes and jump off from the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world…” what meaning do these words currently hold in your life? OR Write about a relationship where you feel stuck in ‘fixing’ mode. Explore options. How can you take your tools and turn them towards self development?

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Every Person’s Life

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In 1987 renowned Gestalt psychotherapist, Erving Polster, wrote a book called “Every Person’s Life is Worth a Novel”.  In this book he writes:

Stories must not only be told, but also heard. What is said gains value from the listeners understanding…

He goes on to write:

We also use stories to join our lives with those of other people…

I recently had the pleasure of meeting some of the founders of a remarkable and powerful new venture called Narrative 4 begun by writers, artists and educators who are passionate about ‘hearing’ and ‘joining’. Narrative 4 aims to enable teenagers globally to come together to exchange stories as a tool for social change. The exchange is intended to be literal – an ultimate act of reflection. The idea is for the young people to swap stories and then read each other’s stories aloud to one another – to allow words to transcend all differences and thread together human experience.  The stated ethos of Narrative 4 is: 

We believe sharing stories is the key to opening the world. We call it ‘Fearless hope through radical empathy’

I call it inspired.

We all crave an attuned listener. We carry our stories with us deep in our pockets, etched on our hearts, buried in hidden places. Sometimes our stories are legible, easy to read, but sometimes it is as if they are written on the wet wall of a dark cave and we spend years waiting for someone to strike a match.

And when the day finally comes, the sudden exposure can be glaring. The attention can call forth panic, anxiety, shame, trepidation, but ultimately relief. We want to be heard. We need to be seen. And even the small flickering flame from a single match can shed enough light for us to look around and realize that we are not alone with our stories. Sharing our truths is an act of healing.

I’ve experienced this firsthand both as a client and a therapist. Every week in my workshop I listen intently as participants grow brave enough to write their stories and offer them up to the group. We are not there to assess or critique or shape or edit. We are there to listen. People come to Write To Be You to be seen and heard, and to see and hear. I am humbled by the courage of my participants and I am witness to the bonds that powerfully and delicately ‘join’ us through story, encouraging self worth, enabling understanding, embracing recovery.

I am often amazed at how few questions people ask in social situations. Is it that we are bound by decorum not wanting to appear nosey? Or is it that so many people are wrapped  tightly in their own inward facing cocoon that it doesn’t occur to them to reach beyond that and explore another’s landscape?

Questions are essential to social interactions, and yet contemporary technology encourages a ‘me’ centred paradigm where our young people are at risk of becoming voyeurs and not listeners. Let’s encourage curiosity in ourselves and younger generations. Next time you meet someone you don’t know, practice drawing out their story. Be interested. See what you can learn about yourself by listening to someone else.

And while you’re at it, please join me in exploring and supporting Narrative 4 as a dedicated group of individuals step up to link our ever divided world. Personal narratives are thirsty for oxygen, buried within us they can fester and wilt. Now more than ever we need to return to the ancient arts and allow them to work their communal magic alongside technology.

It is not only in recent years that the most essential tales told have gone ‘viral’…  the passage and momentum of storytelling has been with us from the beginning of time. We just need to keep breathing fresh air into stale corners and lighting that match in the darkest of caves.

Read about the origins of Narrative 4 by clicking HERE and visit their website HERE

A writing prompt inspired by Narrative 4: Write about discovering a story on the wall of a cave. Who has been there before you? What is the writing on the wall? Imagine you are illuminated by the light of the match. Tell both of your stories. Give yourself permission to write in fragments, dream images, floating words. Feel your way…

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Be Childish!

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This is what I know. When we think too much about something it becomes overbaked. Mushy. Charred. Over thinking contaminates the dress-up box that is our right brain. Over thinking can apply the brakes to our creativity with an ear piercing screech.

Writing can be taught but it doesn’t sing until it is FELT.

Thinking too much dislocates us from the creative surge and veers us away from running through the sprinklers on the page.

Have you ever watched a child lost in the zone of imaginative play? The kind of play where tables have names and ears and claws, and pillows are robots and princesses and trolls? The kind of play where a butterfly has tea with a tiny plastic puppy, before joining forces to climb a mountain of marshmallows and sliced peaches, so together they can conquer the cloud rats?

The kind of play we are conditioned to avoid as adults for fear of looking silly, or weird, or childish – a word that we have sadly hijacked and turned into an insult.

“Don’t be so childish…”

I herby declare that being described as childish should be re-imagined as a compliment of the highest order.

Children are straight talkers. Straight feelers. Wild players. Children are excellent role models for occupying the moment. Dancing in the moment. Expanding the moment. Eating up an ordinary moment because it suddenly appears delicious.

In my writing workshops I give grown-ups the permission to play. I offer opportunities and I sit back and marvel at the energy shift in the room. Laughter erupts. Inner critics are squashed like rubber whoopee cushions flattened by the collective butts of creative freedom.

Voices, previously hushed and cautious, are discovered and released. Translucent word bubbles float from pen to pen, heart to heart, wand to wand. Truths told. Hurts heard and healed.

When we stop thinking about writing and start feeling, we allow our words to channel the essence of the child within. Unfiltered. Messy. Pure.

So “Be childish!” Press pause on your think button. Run through the sprinklers in the park and on the page! Climb the marshmallow mountain!

I’ll be at the top, eating peaches, ready to welcome you….

WITING PROMPT  – TEN MINUTES OR LESS!

Be childish now. Write without thinking. Make up a crazy poem or character or a stream of irresistible nonsense. Turn down your adult.

OR

Write about running through sprinklers – experiment with different points of view – first person and third person. Be playful with your adjectives. Bring us into the moment with you…

 

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Get It Write

I’ve never abseiled off the side of a building or walked a tightrope, but I’ve bared my soul in writing and thrown it with abandon into the world. I’ve taken emotional risks with my words that can feel as petrifying and as dangerous as taking similar risks with my body.

And I’ve survived.

I’m privileged to watch people in my workshops week in and week out access the deep courage it requires to take those very same risks. To become vulnerable. To try things out. To expose their fears of shame and failure.

Why is writing so terrifying? In this post from last year, I begin to unpack that question. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject when you have finished reading…

Enjoy  GET IT WRITE

“I’m interested in doing your workshop but the idea of writing intimidates me…” 

I’ve heard this often. It seems the very act of picking up a pen and relaying thoughts and feelings can become burly & threatening, like a school bully who syphons power by frightening others. Sadly, very often that ‘bully’ has been frightened themselves and when they can access help or understanding, there is the potential to deactivate the charge.

So how do we make sense of why the idea of writing is scaring so many people?

Here lies my answer. For many years, traditional western education has hijacked writing and twisted it into something unnecessarily menacing. Something that needs to be done ‘correctly’. Something that will result in a mark or grade that is judged by an outsider – a source of authority. This leaves very little room to embrace the wayward and unruly workings of our human minds. This leaves absolutely no room to celebrate unconventional structures such as:

Outside. Bounce. Bounce. That ball doesn’t never ever stop. STOP. bounce. Bounce.  In my brain. Slam dunking my words away from the train of thought I am riding. With my head out the window. Like a dog. Sniffing. Ears flapping, listening. Absorbing worlds of. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

In recent years the foundations have been shifting, but in 1979 that wouldn’t have earned me an ‘A’ anywhere, especially not in England. In my early education, creativity was shackled with strict limitations.  Apparently we were only allowed to light up the right side of our brains (the creative centre) in nursery school or art class. Even then I have recollections of the teacher removing the brush from my hand and painting over my canvas, in a concerted effort to show me how to ‘improve’.

It’s not a shocker that twenty or thirty years later many people cower from the prospect of trying something just for the hell of it. Letting words out of the enclosure. Giving sentences permission to roam lawlessly. To soar high. To float gently.

In reality, it is not the act of writing that scares us but the external judge, who currently occupies our inner landscapes, ruling the domain with unmerciful glee.

What do I say to those prospective participants – the ones who are drawn towards the workshops but who feel intimidated?

Face the bully! 
Straighten your shoulders! 
Stick your tongue out! 
Hold up a shameless finger and kick the gate open!

There are acres of gorgeous ground to cover. Wasted wooly woodlands filled with creative possibility. Magical truth tunnels. Whispering story trees. And the written word is waiting to lead you on your own guided tour.

So don’t write to please ‘them’ – they have their own issues to tackle. Don’t try and get it ‘right’ because ‘right’ is a moveable feast.

The solution is delightfully simple.
You guessed it… Write To Be You.

Start here! Start Now! Share a spontaneous response to this post. Can be anything… a personal account, a fictional story, a tangled net of words. Share anonymously if that feels safer. Work up to declaring your name. Reinvent or reconnect. Find freedom through your words…

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In Need of a Get Together

A note to say my posts have slowed down for the time being because I am busy working on the sequel to ‘Playing Along’ and I’m noticing that all my energy is drawn towards writing that. It’s important to honour the pull of a project – if it has you entwined, then sometimes the best thing to do is not disentangle. However, I have had  a lot of new followers to the blog recently and I am grateful for the interest. I will continue to blog and post writing prompts, but until then I would like to share some of the archives with you. If you are new to this post, why not give the writing prompt a try?  If you are revisiting, I invite you to reflect on the post again. Returning to something with a fresh lens is often very useful!

Thank you, as ever, for your support!

Enjoy IN NEED OF A GET TOGETHER:

 

I remember when I first heard the term ‘inner child’, I pictured a pouting toddler, curled forward, arms hugging her knees. She was crouched somewhere deep inside of me, behind my ribs, peeking through the gaps like they were slatted window blinds.  I felt unnerved by her presence.  Did she need a snack?  A cuddle? Someone to play with?  It was hard enough meeting the needs of my own two children and suddenly I had a third small person to worry about.  One who didn’t speak much but had the whole of my history wrapped quietly around her tongue.

When I was training to be a therapist we were encouraged to have a dialogue with our inner child. Good luck.  Mine was uncooperative. She hid her face. Gazed at me with pleading eyes. Begged me silently to put her to bed and concentrate instead on being the ‘outer grown-up’ I was supposed to be. I soon realized she wasn’t alone in there. She was hanging out with my ‘inner control freak’, my ‘inner debbie downer’, my ‘inner hopeless romantic’, my ‘inner moody adolescent’ and my ‘inner catastrophist’. They were all having a fine old time.

Trying to get the attention of my tenants was a bit like attempting to recite poetry at rave. My inner child might have been monosyllabic, but the rest of them were a raucous crowd – constantly jostling to be heard.

We all have busy interiors. Different psychological paradigms assign this phenomenon varying labels  (ego states and sub personalities to name a few). Whatever you wish to call them, our chaotic internal get togethers are often a result of neglected aspects of ourselves battling for the limelight.

Start to listen to the voices. Establish firm guidelines. I learnt not to let Debbie Downer and Hopeless Romantic meet for breakfast on Valentines Day, no matter how much they petitioned – it was never pretty. Catastrophist was banned from reading the newspapers for a little while and Control Freak was surprisingly calm when I instructed her to keep typing and stop tidying. I started dragging Adolescent to gigs with me and she stopped sulking about all the endless Saturday nights spent watching ‘The Love Boat’. I bought Child the dog she had been longing for, and we took a daily walk through the wooded trees in the park. Gradually she began to chat. She whispered a few secrets to me about connecting with my own children as well; secrets I had very nearly forgotten.

Ignoring the needy parts of ourselves will always have a consequence. Start tuning in to the voices in your head. Use your writing to help you hear what they have to say. Take a roll call. Write a dialogue between them all – is it a comical farce or a tension fuelled drama? Notice who’s mssing. Is there an aspect of yourself that you need to make more space for?  Write them an entrance.

Share your findings!  Post snippets of your dialogue in the comments section or simply let me know your thoughts about your own internal meet ups.  Be playful – create an imaginary Facebook page for your various aspects or write about what they might Tweet to each other.  Don’t over think this.  Just write… and report back!

Additionally – explore the archives on the right for more prompts and click on the Ready, Steady, Write link to find image inspirations!

 

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Get off and Walk

For regulars who rely on the writing prompt – forgive my delay. The week seems to have become crowded, like an elevator that continually stops at each floor and fills with people, before you’ve reached your destination. Every time the door opens you wonder, should I get off and walk? But you stay inside feeling more and more breathless and trapped. I think that’s what our lives can feel like sometimes. Even when we don’t have much to occupy us… thoughts and anxieties and pressures and worries can overcrowd our hearts and be just as cumbersome as tasks and to do lists.

Maybe it is time to get off and walk?

What does that look like to you? You don’t have to take this literally…  simply reflect on what you might need in your life to allow you some breathing space.

I was drawn to this sign the other day.

I know people who don’t actually give themselves permission to relax, because it is served up with feelings of guilt and obligation. They remain focused but closed. Stressed about all the things they have to do and all the things they haven’t done. They live their life going up and down in that airless elevator, wondering why they are feeling increasingly flat.

I like the idea that when we truly relax and release the vice like grip that can repress our energies, it is then that we learn how to be open. The kind of relaxing I’m imagining brings with it a sense of checking in and not just checking out.

How lovely if we walked through the world occasionally with this sign around our necks, hanging loosely, declaring to others…

I’m present.

I’m not bound by anxiety.

I’m breathing freely.

I’m listening.

I’m here.

Write about this sign and how it relates to your life at the moment. Give yourself ten minutes to let the words flow. If you feel the urge to use this image as a springboard for a story, then go in that direction instead. Practice relaxing your grip on yourself as you write. Don’t edit and dictate… invite the words to flow.

 

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Saturday Night

On Saturday night, after my glittering post publication week, I found myself in the front row of a Keane concert at The Pantages Theatre. For those of you who don’t already know, the band Keane were part of the inspiration for my novel, ‘Playing Along’. If you want to know the whole story you can read it HERE.

So there I was, with my sister and a friend, pushed up against the stage, literally centimetres from ‘the boys’ (as I like to call them.) I had a signed copy of ‘Playing Along’ in my bag and I had every intention of being brave. Being uninhibited. Being bold and finding a way to get that book onto that stage. I really thought it would be cool if the band knew they had inspired a novel.

But when it came down to it I felt a bit timid. A bit hesitant. A bit self-conscious – an insecurity I often see manifested in my kids. They are constantly worried about what other people will think. They are often convinced that the entire world is busy casting judgement on their complexion, or their father’s clothes, or how loudly the radio is playing in our car. I try to explain to them that no one cares if their Dad has a plum coloured sweater or if they have a pimple that day. But it’s hard for them to believe because we live in a society that is rife with judgement and assessment (just turn on the TV for five minutes and you will be inundated).

Feeling overly anxious about other people’s opinions has become the norm. The truth is, the people that we worry are judging us are most likely facing the same bulky obstacles themselves. We are caught in a flurry of constant assessment – disconnecting us from spontaneity.

Why this tangent now in this post? Because on Saturday I became obsessively concerned with what might happen if I tried to get the book on stage in the ‘wrong’ way!

What would people think?!

If I threw the book– it might hit Tom. If I tried to hand it to him while he was singing – he might get distracted. If I climbed on stage and gave it to him – the entire audience would be watching  and that felt far too exposing.

Basically, I was killing off the moment with my thoughts. I was beating spontaneity into a pulpy pile of second guesses. And once I realized that – I stopped thinking and I started dancing.

And when the moment presented itself – I knew that was my moment. I waved the book in the air and Tom graciously took it from my hand and smiled when he looked at the cover.

The room was alive with energy and applause and I felt alive inside. And the feeling was not unlike when I stop THINKING about what I’m going to write and just write instead. That’s when the words leap off the page and my hand won’t stop moving. That’s when someone else’s reaction is the farthest thing from my mind. That’s when the creative juices are flowing and the sparks are flying.

That’s when I feel free.

When do you feel free? Write without thinking for ten minutes. Just pick up a pen or go to your keyboard and write in response to my words. Let your words find the energy they are searching for. If nothing comes, then write nonsense. Write the word ‘nothing’. Write a list of words that you like the sound of. Stay open. Stay curious. Be free.

To everyone who has bought Playing Along this week and offered encouragement and support – I am so grateful! Thank you for helping the book take flight… the adventure has only just begun!

 

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2013 – Let’s Go!

Last year I danced out the new year to ‘Shake it Out’ by Florence and the Machine. This year I’m dancing into 2013 with ‘Let’s Go’ by Matt and Kim on the top of my playlist.

Today is just another day in the bigger scheme of things, but the calendar offers us the opportunity to embrace intentions – to stand in a moment and pin it down.

This is what I want to say. This is what has meaning to me…

I’m interested in momentum this year. In movement. I’m curious to keep exploring the energies that silence me and the energies that draw out my voice. I’m really excited and equally nervous about releasing ‘Playing Along’ imminently into the world.

Over this last year I have had the benefit of learning so much from the Write To Be You community. I have been awed by people’s capacity to shift something with their words – to encounter an obstacle and explore it through writing and reflection. But mostly I have been enthralled by people’s willingness to jump into the unknown when the environment makes this possible. To write with abandon and read aloud in a group before an edit. To embrace the uncertainty of what might tumble from their brain and to trust the creative process regardless.

It’s contagious – this kind of creative release. It frees us all up to discover what living authentically can truly look like.

2012, like any given year, has led us to places of deep darkness – collectively and individually. Every year we wonder will the next year be better than the last? And the answer is always elusive. The marriage of lightness and darkness will forever be our greatest challenge.

So when you do feel the life force surging – be it through writing, drawing, photographing, sculpting, playing, composing, creating, relating, loving, grieving, moving, meditating – dance with that energy. Turn up the music. Be silly this year. Be thoughtful. Be kind – to yourself and to others.

“Say what you want to say, make it mean everything…”

2013 – Let’s Go!

What intentions do you want to pin down for 2013? Be specific! Don’t set the bar too high – start small and inch towards bigger. Allow your intentions to materialise through writing. Animate them with your words. Listen to ‘Let’s Go’ and notice how the music and lyrics make you feel. Enjoy the video – it’s funny!

If you have enjoyed reading the Write To Be You blog over the last year, please consider sharing it with friends who might also be inspired by this community. Last year I planted the seed. This year I’d love to see the garden grow and spread even wider. With thanks!

 

How I Took my Eye Off the Prize

Pass the Parcel. It was a game we played at parties as children. A waiting game. A tempting game. We sat in a circle. Crossed legged. Filled with anticipation. Digesting soggy egg salad sandwiches and over-sugared chocolate cake.

When the music stopped, if the parcel was in your lap, you were allowed to unwrap it; tearing away a layer like the papery skin of a bulky onion.

As the minutes ticked by, the parcel diminished, growing smaller and smaller with each undressing.

I wanted the final prize. I longed to be the lucky winner whom fate looked kindly upon. I sat patiently in that circle, party after party, dreaming of being the one. The golden child who would reveal the treasure.

It never occurred to me that fate played no part in this process at all. It was all up to the grown-up with the cassette player. It was they who pressed the pause button. They who determined which child became the proud owner of a yoyo or a skipping rope or a leaky bottle of bubbles.

The funny thing is – I have no recollection of ever ‘winning’ that game, despite that fact I played it countless times. But I do remember the unwrapping. I vividly recall painstakingly peeling back the tape, willing the present to appear, even though I knew it was at least two songs away.

I remember being enthralled with the possibility. Compelled by the potential. Of course I wanted the gift at the end, but I was equally fascinated by the mechanics. I liked feeling the paper crinkle in my hands as it fell away from the parcel. Perhaps I also perversely enjoyed the feeling of envy that flooded me when it was all over. It began to define me as the child on the outskirts. It prepped me to avoid the limelight, in favour of the familiar safety of the shadows.

Why this memory now? Because it was right around this time last year that my novel, Playing Along, was passed on endlessly, while I sat silently in the circle, cross legged, holding my breath. Waiting to get lucky.

It took me until I was 42 to fully understand how important it was for me to take ownership of the damn cassette player. I could learn how to commandeer my own pause button.  I could release myself from being purely at the mercy of a benevolent publisher, and I could stop focusing solely on ‘the prize’.

Those  cheap yoyos never really worked anyway. Can you imagine all the scores of  ‘winning’ children left with a tangled string and a sinking feeling of inadequacy, even though they were indeed ‘the one’?

Once the all powerful cassette player became mine, Write To Be You workshops and blog were born. I liberated my creativity and discovered a ‘voice’. In doing so, I directly and indirectly released others, also bound too tightly in the very same game.

It has been incredibly humbling and inspiring listening and reading as new voices articulate in that circle around me. Thank you for keeping me company. Each week I learn something fresh and valuable from the process of writing the blog, reading your comments and stories, running the workshops and educating myself about self-publishing.

There is so much to be gained from paying attention to simply passing the parcel. Who knew that taking my eye off the prize could be so much fun?!

What memories of childhood party games do you have? Could you see them as metaphors in your present day?

OR

Reflect on if you might benefit from taking your eye off the prize and immersing yourself more fully in the process instead.

Have you been wanting to share your thoughts or stories on Write To Be you but never taken the leap? There is no time like the present!  Stop waiting for the ‘gift’ to materialise in your lap, just post something from your heart and pass the parcel on!

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